The U.S. Department of Transportation is appointing a Chief Science Officer for the entire Department for the first time in over four decades and has taken several additional steps to act on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to address the climate emergency.
The Department also announced that it has begun work to reestablish its Climate Change Center and has moved to restore public access to climate-related reports, program information, and other scientific and technical information.
The Department’s Chief Science Officer has been named as Dr. Robert C. Hampshire, PhD. In this role, he will serve as the principal advisor to Secretary Pete Buttigieg on science and technology issues. He is charged with ensuring that DOT’s research, development and technology programs are scientifically and technologically well-founded and conducted with integrity. He was previously associate professor at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and at both the U-M Transportation Research Institute’s (UMTRI) Human Factors group and Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS), and holds his PhD from Princeton University.
“Climate resilience and environmental justice are at the heart of this Administration’s mission to build back better–and that effort must be grounded in scientific expertise,” said Buttigieg. “We’re thrilled to officially name Dr. Hampshire as our Chief Science Officer, and look forward to his contributions to this historic effort.”
“The re-introduction of a Chief Science Officer underscores transportation’s key role in addressing the complexity and criticality of our dynamically changing climate. I look forward to working across all modes of transportation to address the immediate concerns, and to ensure our future transportation system is sustainable,” said the Acting Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology Robert Hampshire. “It is important that USDOT incorporate scientific research to advance climate change initiatives that are fair and equitable to all.”
The Department’s actions stem from the President’s Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis and the Presidential Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking.
The Climate Change Center will help coordinate the Department’s related research, policies, and actions and support the transportation sector in moving toward a net-zero carbon emissions. The “DOT Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting” was established during the Clinton Administration to serve as the multi-modal focal point for information and technical expertise on transportation and climate change, coordinating climate-related research, policies, and actions. The Center has been dormant since early 2017.
The Department has assessed public websites and information repositories, including the National Transportation Library, and identified 24 websites and 33 reports and other publications which had been de-published after January 21, 2017. All of these materials have been restored to public access.
The Department will also re-designate a Scientific Integrity Officer, responsible for research policy implementation, who reports directly to the Chief Science Officer.
The transportation sector is the number one producer of greenhouse gases in the U.S., which underscores the ability of the transportation industry and the Department to quickly and meaningfully reduce greenhouse gases and address the climate crisis. These actions are the first steps in returning the Department to its position as a leader in addressing climate change and environmental justice.